The Plum Tree
"Most of them are filled with worms," you tell my parents, the first
thing you say to them, allergies making it look like you're weeping.
You in Denver, I stymie the trunk with copper nails, gather the strays,
dry them on ledges, count the days till they're prunes.
You say plums remind you of our wedding, and when I ask how, you
remember it was apricots, not plums, compote filling our cake, you
insisting apricots and plums are basically the same fruit.
The bleeding slowed, I fed you cobbler in bed, asked where we'd spend
our next anniversary, you already asleep, sugar crusting your lips,
your tongue dashing out for a taste.
A blackbird, plum in beak, lands on the porch, drops the gnarled fruit,
flies off, and you bury its pit opposite the already-grown tree,
explaining what a waste it would be for the gesture to go unrewarded.
We flew to Oakland, taxied to Saratoga, drank wine for three days,
celebrating nine years, your tongue smelling of our back yard,
fermenting in my mouth.
The June the boy plummeted from above, broke his neck, a plum with one
bite clasped in hand, we were married ten years, long enough to know
we'd never have kids of our own, grateful we'd never bear ourselves
what we'd have to tell his parents.
In DC, you write how the cherry blossoms remind you of me, of us, but
not enough to bring you home.
The trial months away, you text from the bus, wonder if you'd made a
mistake, if it was too late; hammer in hand, I let you drive further
away, far enough to be too late.
The stump chars with a sizzle, sweet syrup choking the wind, the pile
of plums atop popping like corn in a kettle.
Our eleventh anniversary, the last, we fly to Spain, make love nine
times in a week, eat dessert after every meal, burn then peel from the
sun, both of us knowing we'd make it if only we'd never have to go home.
Pliny the Elder, Roman historian, claimed that apricots were the first
plums, found in Mesopotamia, the first civilization, purple emerging
centuries later, your boasting emerging much more quickly.
The pit from the blackbird's plum sprouts but I stomp it down, one plum
tree in any yard enough, too much.